Whether you call it soda, pop, or soda pop, carbonated water with lots of sugar in it has been a staple of the beverage world since about 1867. That’s when it was first sold at druggists and pharmacists across America. At first, it was thought to have remedial effects. But of course, in the new millennium, they are actually having a really negative effect on the health of millions of people.
Nevertheless, soft drinks are still some of the most consumed liquids in the world. This is how 10 of the biggest soft drinks got their start.
10. Mountain Dew
We thought we’d start off this list with one of the most unhealthy soft drinks on the market, and that is the one and only Mountain Dew. Often associated with EXTREME sports like the X-Games, it’s the third most popular soft drink in the world. In 2014, the bright neon yellow drink that is chock full of sugar and caffeine was responsible for a hefty chunk of the $125 billion non-alcoholic beverage market. One interesting thing that we want to add is that you may not like Mountain Dew yourself, but you probably know someone who drinks gallons of it a week. Well, it turns out that about 20% of drinkers are responsible for 70% of their sales.
Mountain Dew has rather humble beginnings. It was invented by some hillbillies living in the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee who were looking for something to chase down their homemade whiskey. In 1948, brothers Barney and Ally Hartman, who ran a bottling company in Knoxville, Tennessee, started bottling the recipe, calling it Mountain Dew. That was slang for moonshine, and they sold it in a green bottle. The drink didn’t sell well while the brothers were owners, so they sold it to another bottling company, who in turn were acquired by PepsiCo in 1964. Since then, it has grown to the international brand we know today and a favorite of teenage boys throughout the world.
9. Red Bull
Many people will be quick to point out that Red Bull is an energy drink, which it is. But, it’s still carbonated sugar water, so that makes it a soft drink. So welcome to the list, Red Bull!
The company was co-founded by an Austrian man named Dietrich Mateschitz. Mateschitz, who earned a degree in marketing, worked for Unilever, Jacob’s Coffee, and Blendax as a marketer. Due to his work, he travelled around a lot and one of his trips led him to Thailand. While there, he drank what was being hailed as a cure for jetlag. And thanks to the amount of caffeine and taurine in it, the syrupy tonic drink did cure his jetlag.
The drink was already popular across Asia and Mateschitz saw the potential. He met with the brewer, Chaleo Yoovidhya, and they made a deal where they would each receive 48% of the company for $500,000 (Yoovidhya’s son owned the other 2%). Over the next severeal years, Mateschitz tinkered with the project. He changed the recipe to appeal more to people in the West, and he carbonated it. He also designed the now recognizable blue and silver can, and a friend gave him their famous slogan: “Red Bull gives you wings.”
With the drink ready for production in 1987, Mateschitz used his years of marketing experience to push the energy drink, the first of its kind. Of course, Red Bull has grown since those early days and both owners became multi-billionaires. According to Forbes, Red Bull is worth $7.7 billion.
8. Hires Root Beer
Drinks made from roots have been around for centuries, so it wasn’t a new invention when Charles Hires tried root tea while on his honeymoon in New Jersey in the second half of the 19th century. He loved the root tea and when he returned home, the young pharmacy owner set to work making his own. His first concoction was called Hires Root Tea. At first, he sold it as packets of dry extracts of Sarsaparilla, Ginger, Sassafras, and Hops, and it was blended with roots, barks, and berries. People would then take it home, add sugar and yeast and let it ferment, then they bottle it themselves.
At first, it didn’t sell well. To boost sales, Hires changed the name to Hires Root Beer for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. He thought the beer label would appeal to men. The name change worked and Hires Root Beer grew in popularity. It was during this time that Hires tried to trademark the name “root beer,” but was denied because it was too generic.
In 1880, Hires made the root beer into a liquid extract. By 1892, they were selling three million bottles of extract a year. The liquid extract was available all the way into the 1920s before it was discontinued. A bottle with a finished product was introduced in 1893 and it has been on sale ever since. However the recipe has changed. It is now carbonated, and has more sugar.
At 140 years old, Hires is the oldest soft drink brand that is still sold today.
7. Barq’s Root Beer
The convoluted history of Barq’s Root Beer started in 1890, when chemist Edward Charles Edmond Barq Sr. opened Barq Brothers Bottling Co. in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In 1897, he moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, and opened the Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works in 1899. Two years later, he started selling a drink he called Barq’s, which was a sarsaparilla-based libation.
Where the story gets a little bit more complicated is that Barq had an affair, which resulted in a child named Jasper “Jesse” Louis Robinson. Robinson lived with the Barqs, which we’re sure wasn’t awkward at all, and as an adult, at his father’s urging, Robinson opened his own bottling plant in New Orleans where he sold Barq’s. The father and son had a deal where Robinson could sell anywhere in Louisiana, except Washington Parish, and Barq would have Mississippi.
Throughout the years, the two companies ran completely separate from each other and each used their own processes for making root beer. By 1937, Barq had passed away and there were 62 franchises bottling root beer from Robinson’s leg of the business. At the time of Robinson’s death in 1949, there were close to 200 bottling franchises spread throughout the country. Robinson left half the company to his wife, and then the other half was split between his three children. His wife then named their son Jesse Robinson Jr. as the president of the Company.
In 1971, Jesse was ousted as president, and upon leaving that position, he sold his inheritance he would get when his mother died to his two sisters. After Jesse left, the two Barq’s bottling companies merged and in 1991 they were purchased by the Coca-Cola company for $91 million.
However, that wasn’t the end of it for the second Jesse Robinson. In 2010, his children sued Coca-Cola for one-third of Barq’s profits contending that, in Louisiana, you cannot sell your inheritance. Coca-Cola said the suit had no merit and the result of the suit could not be found.
6. Canada Dry
The creator of Canada Dry Ginger Ale, John James McLaughlin, was born in Enniskillen, Ontario, on March 2, 1865. He studied pharmacy at school and in 1885, set up a small carbonating bottling plant in Toronto. There, he developed mixes and carbonated water. One mixture that he made, called McLaughlin’s Belfast Style Ginger Ale, found popularity in the United Kingdom. He decided to develop a similar drink that was dry and sparkling, like champagne. He spent 10 years working on it and in 1904, he had perfected the recipe. A patent was filed on it in 1905 and two years later, he trademarked the name Canada Dry Pale Ginger Ale.
McLaughlin died in 1914, just as the company was starting to get off the ground, and his brother took over. Canada Dry was able to set themselves apart because they focused on selling it in ready to drink bottles, which was unusual for soft drinks at the time.
A few things helped make Canada Dry so popular. The first was that since it was ready to drink, it was sold at places like the beach and baseball games. The second was prohibition. When Canada Dry was introduced in the 1920s in the United States, the 18th Amendment prohibiting alcohol was being enforced. Canada Dry became popular in speakeasies because it made illegal Canadian whiskey much smoother and easier to drink.
From there, the company grew and changed hands multiple times. In 1953, they were the first soft drink to come in a can. The Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc. owns the company today, and it’s the third most produced soft drink in the world.
Originally called Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime (we can’t fathom why they’d ever change that gem of a name), 7-Up was introduced just two weeks before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The owner of the drink, Charles L. Grigg, worked as a soft drinks advertiser and changed the name to 7-Up shortly after its release. As for why the name change, no one is really sure why Grigg chose the name or what it means. Grigg ultimately took the secret to his grave, so there is a good chance we will never know. But one belief, probably the most logical, is that 7-Up has seven ingredients. Another theory is related to the original 7-Up’s special ingredient, the mood altering drug lithium, which has an atomic mass close to seven. Lithium is a salt that is found in groundwater. It’s used to treat bipolar disorder and depression.
7-Up continued to use lithium in its recipe until 1948, when it was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration. In 1950, the new formula, without the special side effects, was released. The soda maintained its popularity. It was purchased in 1978 by cigarette giant Phillip Morris, and then the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group bought it in 1986 for $240 million.
One story you made of heard about Fanta was that it was invented by the Nazis. The good news for those of you who love Fanta, but feel guilty about the Nazi connection, is that the myth isn’t true. That being said, Hitler and the Nazis did influence its creation.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Coca-Cola was having amazing success in Germany. They had record sales there, and by 1939, the country was home to 43 bottling plants and more than 600 distributors. The problem was that the atmosphere in Europe was changing. That meant that German Coca-Cola plants were having a hard time getting all the ingredients needed to produce Coca-Cola.
In 1938, Ray Powers, the American-born overseer of Coke’s operations in Germany, died in a car accident. The German government chose Max Keith, Powers’ German-born right hand man, to be his replacement. Keith, who was not associated with the Nazis, got a message to Coca-Cola distributors in Switzerland and told them he would try to keep operations going.
Since Keith couldn’t get all the ingredients, he had to stop selling Coca-Cola because he simply had no way to make it. Instead, he used the Coca-Cola plants to produce Fanta, which was a pale drink made from whatever was available at the time. This included whey, and apple fiber from cider presses. As for where the name came from, Keith told his salesman to use their “Fantasie” (imagination in German) to come up with a name and a veteran salesman blurted out “Fanta.” The drink sold well during the war. In 1943, three million cases were sold.
During the war, Coca-Cola’s head office in Atlanta had no idea if Keith was working for them or the Nazis. When the war came to an end, they found out Keith had kept operations going and protected Coca-Cola’s interests. As a result, Coca-Cola were one of the first companies to restart operations in post-war Germany. They also looked into Keith’s involvement with the Nazis and it turned out that although he was pressured to join, he never became a member of the Nazi party.
Coca-Cola discontinued Fanta after the war, but in the 1950s, Pepsi-Cola started to release more flavors. To compete, Fanta was reintroduced in 1955. The first flavor was orange, and now there are more than 100 flavors. Every day, 130 million people consume one of those flavors.
3. Dr. Pepper
Dr. Pepper is famous for combining 23 different flavors. It even says it on the label. Perhaps that’s why it’s so surprising that it’s actually the oldest carbonated flavored drink that is still sold today. Of course, Hires was priorly created, but it was more of a tea drink that wasn’t carbonated.
In 1885, Waco, Texas was a frontier town that held the ominous nickname, “six-shooter junction.” In Waco, there was a pharmacy called The Old Corner Drug Store and it was owned by Wade Morrison. At the pharmacy, people would buy drinks from the soda fountain. That’s when pharmacy employee Charles Alderton noticed that people liked the smell of the mixed fruits from different flavored drinks. Customers were also getting bored with the usual flavors. So that is when Alderton started to mix the syrups until he came up with a recipe he liked.
After serving it to a few customers, he got feedback and perfected the famous soft drink. Soon Morrison started selling it, and it became popular enough that other stores purchased the syrup, which didn’t have a name. Instead, people just called it “a Waco.”
The name was chosen by the owner of the pharmacy. It’s not exactly clear why Morrison chose it, but it’s believed to be in honor of his friend Dr. Charles Pepper, whom Morrison knew when he lived in Virginia. Supposedly, Morrison was in love with Pepper’s daughter. However, when Morrison left Virginia to move to Waco, Pepper’s daughter would have been eight-years-old and he wouldn’t have seen her since his move. Yet, that is the official story from Dr. Pepper.
Soon the drink became so popular that they had problems making syrup. That’s when they met Sam Houston, a man who owned a bottling plant in Dublin, Texas. From there, the business grew to be one of the bestselling soft drinks in the world. And some of its bottling is still done in Dublin, Texas, where you can buy the original Dr. Pepper formula.
Much like Burger King to McDonald’s, Pepsi was developed as an imitator with the hopes of replicating the success of a company in the same space. It was first brewed in 1898 by pharmacist Caleb D. Bradham of New Bern, North Carolina. It was a sweet carbonated drink made with kola nut extract, and its name came from another of its main ingredients, pepsin. That’s an enzyme that helps with digestion. It was patented in 1903, and in 1905, they were selling franchises.
Pepsi-Cola sold well at first, but during the first World War, they ran into some financial trouble and filed for bankruptcy. In 1931, it was purchased by Charles G. Guth, who was the owner of Loft, a candy and fountain pop distributor. This started the modern era of the Pepsi-Cola Company. The first thing they did was get a chemist to develop a better drink. They set up bottling operations, and then began selling 12-ounce bottles for a nickel, which proved to be immensely popular.
Guth lost controlling interest in Pepsi in 1941. Nine years later, a former vice president of Coca-Cola company became CEO of Pepsi. He focused on massive advertising campaigns and sales promotions, which increased Pepsi’s earnings 11-fold during the 1950s. That’s when Pepsi officially became the rival to the biggest soft drink company of all-time.
In 1966, Pepsi-Cola, now called PepsiCo, merged with Frito Lay. Then in 1976, they purchased Pizza Hut. In 1978, they bought Taco Bell, and finally they acquired KFC and 7-Up in 1986. Pepsi also owns Tropicana, Dole, Quaker Oats, and Gatorade, making them the second largest producer of food and beverages, just behind…
One thing most people have probably heard about the creation of Coca-Cola is that the original recipe had cocaine in it. Well, that is 100 percent accurate. In fact, it was cocaine and alcohol mixed together.
The story of Coca-Cola can be traced back to Parisian chemist Angelo Mariani. He made a drink called Vin Marine, that mixed wine and cocaine. It was incredibly popular, because mixing cocaine and alcohol actually creates a third drug called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene acts like cocaine, except that it is more euphoric.
Seeing the popularity of the drink and hoping to siphon off some for himself, Dr. John Stith Pemberton, a pharmacist living in Atlanta, worked on developing his own Cocoa French Wine. Pemberton, who had a morphine addiction stemming from an injury he received during the Civil War, made a concoction he called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, which was marketed as a cure all that would help “invigorate sexual organs.”
The drink sold well, as one would expect from a drink that mixed cocaine and alcohol. But then in 1886, Pemberton ran into a problem because one of his wine’s main components became illegal in Atlanta. And no, it wasn’t the cocaine. 34 years before the rest of the country, Atlanta enacted a prohibition law that meant alcoholic drinks could no longer be sold.
To get around the law, Pemberton replaced the alcohol with sugar syrup and called the drink “Coca-Cola: The temperance drink.” Without much else to drink, Coca-Cola became incredibly popular. However, Pemberton didn’t live long enough to see the fruits of his labor. In 1888, the maker of America’s bestselling cocaine-wine died of stomach cancer. We’re sure his product (or that pesky morphine addiction) had nothing to do with his illness.
After Pemberton’s death, Coca-Cola continued to grow in popularity. In 1899, they introduced Coke in bottles, and it became very popular with African Americans, who didn’t have access to fountain pop because of segregation laws. This led to fear among middle class white people that cocaine drinking black people might start attacking white people, and the police would be powerless to stop them. So in 1903, cocaine was removed from the recipe and it was replaced with more sugar and caffeine.
Since then, Coca-Cola has had a long and storied history with many ups and downs. In May 2016, the company (built from an alcoholic drink made with cocaine that was developed by a morphine addicted Civil War vet who ripped off a French chemist) celebrated its 130th anniversary.
Currently, Coca-Cola is the third most valuable brand, just behind Apple and Microsoft. It’s the biggest food and beverage company in the history of civilization.